'I'm studying medicine and I work part time in a nursing home' - My LGFA Life with Westmeath's Lucy McCartan

My LGFA Life – Lucy McCartan, Westmeath

Age: 21

Club: St. Loman’s Mullingar

Occupation: Student – UCD, Medicine, 3rd year (going into 4th year)

County Debut: 2016

Notable Achievements:

Lidl Division 2 League Champs 2017 with Westmeath.

Leinster Young Player of the Year 2013.

Westmeath Examiner Sportsperson of the Month for November 2019.

Westmeath Division 1 League and Senior Championship Winners 2016 and 2017 with St Loman’s.

POTM in Westmeath Championship Final 2016 and 2017.

Leinster B Schools Champs 2014 with Loreto College.

HEC Division 1 League Champs 2018 with UCD.

POTM in HEC Division 1 League Final 2018.

League Cup Champions with Peamount 2018.

So Hotels Women’s National League Champs with Peamount Utd 2019.

FAI Cup Runners Up with Peamount Utd 2018 and 2019.

FAI U19 Player of the Year 2018.

Leinster and All-Ireland U16 ‘C’ Champions 2013.

How have you found your experience of playing Ladies Football?

In the main, I have hugely enjoyed my time playing Ladies Football. A lot of my best memories are from matches and times with the various teams I’ve been a part of. Of course, there are tough days and playing with a small county against the bigger ones means that we can get used to suffering more losses than wins. However, I find that this makes us appreciate the wins so much more, and hopefully now that we’re Intermediate this year, we’ll get a chance to build some confidence and get a few more wins under our belt than we would normally be used to. I loved the challenge of facing the best teams and getting ourselves revved up to play them in Division 1 and the Senior Championship for the past few years and hope that we will get a chance to earn our place back among them soon.

What was it that sparked your interest in the sport from a young age?

My Mam and Dad would always have been big into sport and would’ve had us out playing with the ball in the garden from when we were small. We moved to Turkey when I was in 1st class and I used to play soccer every Saturday with the boys for the 4 years we were there. We’d come back every summer for a holiday in Ireland and when we visited our cousins, the Carrs, we’d play in the “Sunday Game” out on the green with all their neighbours which was our first real taste of competitive Gaelic football! Then when we came back to Ireland for good, I started playing with the Gaelscoil school team, where I started off in goals!

When did you pull on the Westmeath jersey for the first time, and how big a thrill was that?

I first got called up to the Westmeath Ladies in 2016 along with 4 other girls that were on the minor team with me. The match that sticks out most for me that year was the Division 2 League Final against Donegal where I came on as a sub. I just remember being so nervous sitting in the dressing room even though I was on the bench! It was a great game and definitely the most intense one I’d ever played in up until then. I remember thinking what a huge jump it was from playing minor and not wanting to let any of the older players down when I came on. Even though we lost, I felt so proud to be involved and to be playing with so many girls I looked up to. I also was so delighted that we got to keep the jersey from that match, because after watching Donegal reach the Division 1 League Final the following year it made me realise that Westmeath are well able to mix it with the big dogs when we get stuck in.

What is the best thing for you about playing Ladies Football?

In action for the Leinster Interprovincial team against Connacht

I love being part of a team. So many of my closest friends are girls I’ve played with in school, with club, county and now college too. Ladies Football is such a huge commitment and despite being an amateur sport, your life really tends to revolve around it. This doesn’t seem like such a big deal when everyone on the team is in the same boat. Since starting college, I’ve really noticed how much of your time is taken up by training and matches but my best friends and roommates in college are the girls I’ve played with since first year. I found myself making friends with the football girls much faster than the people on my course because of all the time we spent together training and on team nights out.

Who was the biggest influence on your career?

My parents have always been a great influence on my career. They were always willing to go above and beyond to get me to matches and training and were always there to support and cheer me on. Mammy was our physio for a year when I was U16 and my dad is now the kit-man for the Westmeath ladies, so they’re just as invested in Westmeath football as I am! Up until last year when I started driving, they would drive me to Peamount 2-3 times a week, not getting home until after 10 most nights while also bringing my sibling to each of their respective training sessions too! They’ve always been amazing at helping me to balance my time between sport, study and work and have often brought me to 2 matches in the same day at opposite sides of the country so I wouldn’t have to miss one. And if that wasn’t enough, they were always there with great insights and punditry for the way home!

What are the main challenges that you have faced in your career so far?

The hardest part about playing two sports is dealing with the clashing fixtures. I find it very difficult to make the decision to miss one match for another and let one team down. Over the years I have had some great managers and most of them have been very understanding about my schedule. However, it can be an issue sometimes and I get quite stressed about what to do and how to deal with the situation. It’s hard to have your commitment being questioned when you feel like you’re doing your best to balance a heavy training schedule between a number of different teams. I don’t enjoy any sort of conflict but unfortunately juggling 2 sports can lead to unhappy managers at times.

You’re also renowned as an excellent soccer player, and you’ve represented your country. How big an honour was that for you?

Playing for Ireland from U15-U19 was a huge honour and a great source of pride for me. The four years I played from U17 to U19 involved so many camps and tournaments in so many different countries and although they could be hard at times, it was such a great experience to be involved in such a professional set up at such a young age. It was quite a pressurised environment because at every camp you were fighting for a place on the 18-person squad that was picked for the tournaments. I spent a lot of time on the bench and coming on as a sub during the first few years. My friend and teammate Dearbhaile Beirne, who would also have been my roommate on most trips, would’ve had a similar experience in that respect, but even though we weren’t starting, the two of us always managed to make the 18!

What do you do for a living, and how do you manage the work-life-sport balance, particularly when playing multiple sports?

In action for UCD against DCU in the Gourmet Food Parlour O’Connor Cup 

I’m studying medicine in UCD at the moment and I work part time in a nursing home at the weekends. I find it quite hard to manage the work-life-sport balance at times and although I get a bit overwhelmed at times, I do like to be busy and have always managed to keep everything going. College has been a steep learning curve in terms of learning to manage my time to include enough time for study, sport, work, seeing my friends and family and also learning to cook for myself! Some weeks are better than others and I think that mostly depends on how tired I am and how prepared I am at the start of the week. Being able to drive has helped hugely as I don’t have to rely on lifts all the time. In first and second year I used to have to leave UCD at 6:15 to get a bus to where one of the girls would collect me and drive us to Peamount for training at 8.

What was it like to win the Under 19 Women’s International Player of the Year at the 2018 FAI Awards?

It was a big surprise to win U19 Women’s International Player of the Year. I was delighted to have been nominated and getting to go to the FAI Awards night was such a treat as it was without adding the award on top of it all. I had been really happy how I played down in Limerick in the Elite Phase of the European Qualifiers and had even managed to score my first (and last!) international goal and being chosen for the award was such a lovely way to end my underage career.

You were named as the Leinster Young Player of the Year in 2013. How big an honour was this and what do you remember about All Star night?

Lucy was TG4 Ladies Football Leinster Young Player of the Year Award winner in 2013. She’s pictured here with her family, parents Frances and Pat McCartan, and grandmother Niamh McCartan. 

It was such an honour to win that award and I remember having such a lovely night with my Mam, Dad and granny at the All Stars. I remember feeling completely in awe at the thought of being on the same stage as all the All Star recipients. One of the parts of the night that I remember most clearly is listening to Joanne O’Riordan giving her speech about being only one of 7 other people in the world with her condition and about her massive love of the GAA. She spoke so well and got so many laughs from everyone I just thought she was an incredible speaker and person for someone so young. I also remember Mary Jo Curran being inducted into the Hall of Fame that night and I loved the montage they did of some of her best bits over the years.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the rest of your career?

My most immediate hope is for Westmeath to get to the TG4 Intermediate All Ireland Final this year and win to regain our status as a senior county. I hope to be playing senior football for the majority of my career and getting to play the best teams every year. With Peamount, I’m hugely looking forward to playing Champions League in October and hope to win another few league titles before the end of my career.

Have you played sports other than soccer and Ladies Football?

I played basketball in school and loved it but never picked it up outside of school. I also used to swim with Mullingar Jets but stopped once the football schedule got too hectic. We recently joined the golf club in Mullingar so I’m looking forward to trying something new!

Do you have a favourite photograph from your career? 

This is one of me in action for UCD! We had a great year with UCD in 2019 and reached the O’Connor Cup Final, which was such a big occasion for us all!

You play your club football with St Loman’s Mullingar. How have you found that experience and what is it about the club that’s so special?

Playing for St Loman’s has always been a great experience, especially since I started playing senior in 2015. We had a great few years getting to the county final in 2015 and then going on to win 2 senior county championships in a row in 2016 and 2017. It can be tricky being involved in a club with so many players having so many demands on their time, but I think that’s part of what makes Loman’s so special. We have so many girls playing county football and camogie, club camogie and soccer that it can be difficult to get numbers down at training early on, but we always manage to pull together around championship time.

You’re renowned as an excellent finisher in front of goal. What do you regard as the strongest aspects of your game?

Facing up to Dublin’s Leah Caffrey during the 2018 TG4 Leinster Senior Final

I think that my passing is arguably the strongest part of my game. I like to get my head up early and look for the best pass forward. It’s definitely also a part of my game that needs a lot of work because when those passes do come off they look great and can be dangerous, but when they don’t they can lead to turnovers and can cause the whole momentum to break down. I think when I find the balance between looking for that killer pass and retaining possession I’ll be a lot happier with my overall performance.

What’s your career highlight?

Winning the Lidl National League Division 2 Final in 2017 was definitely one of the best memories I have in the Westmeath jersey. We had an unbelievable team that year with the likes of Rebecca Dunne and Aileen Martin having incredible performances on that day. We had struggled the first day in Parnell Park and only thanks to 2 class goals from Ciara Blundell did we manage to draw the game and force a replay. We were a different animal then for the replay and I think it was one of the best overall team performances from that particular Westmeath side, with 1-15 and all the subs that came on playing out of their skin.

How confident are you that Westmeath can bounce back to the Senior Inter-County ranks after suffering relegation last year?


Obviously, it will not be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel like if there’s any year where the desire and hunger is strongest to get back to senior, it would be this year. We know that there are a number of teams in Intermediate that are just as determined as us to make that jump and we will definitely have our work cut out for us. Being a smaller county playing senior has meant that we wouldn’t have ever had the chance to imagine what it would be like to play in Croke Park, and now that we’re Intermediate we have a fresh set of goals, one of which is making it all the way to Croke Park. This is a big change from just looking for good performances and hoping to avoid relegation.

What piece of advice would you offer to up and coming young players?

I would say to be willing to take criticism and be prepared for the jump to playing senior. I think a lot of young players find it hard to go from being the superstar at underage to just another player at senior but if you’re willing to stick out the first year or two and adjust your game to the needs of the team, you will find your transition to senior much easier.

And who’s given you the best piece of advice during your career?

I’ve been given lots of great advice over the years, but Damien Kelly has probably given me some of the best advice in terms of improving my game. He told me how important it is as a forward to be unpredictable and to always have your marker wondering what you’re going to do next. This is very valuable advice to me as a player who tends to always look to pass it first time. He tells me before most matches to mix it up each time I get the ball and take on the player or go for a one two instead of looking to pass it every time. I think it’s something that keeps me focused in games.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

I don’t really have any definite hobbies, although I am hoping golf will become something for me to do except for football.

You’re hosting a dinner party, and you can invite 5 people. Who’s on the list and what are you rustling up for your guests to eat?

Michael Jordan – after watching The Last Dance I just think he’s a legend.

Kieran Donaghy – I’ve always loved the Star and I feel like he and MJ would have plenty to talk about.

James Corden – to provide some entertainment.

Michael D Higgins – he’d bring us all back down to earth with his wisdom.

My Granny Niamh – also great for some one-liners!

I think I’d skip dinner and make them all some of my baked lemon cheesecake, it’s always a winner.

And finally, who’s your all-time sporting idol?

Dora Gorman in action for Galway against Dublin in 2011. 

I never would’ve had a sporting idol exactly, just a lot of people I look up to and one person I admire hugely is Dora Gorman. We played together briefly in UCD on the O’Connor Cup team and apart from being an outrageously talented footballer she is also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. For someone who has so many achievements under her belt, captaining her U17 Irish soccer team to the UEFA European Finals and the quarter finals of the U17 World Cup and topping her class in medicine on graduating from UCD to name but a few, she is such a modest person. Anything I’ve ever heard about her has been positive and I admire her for being such a well-rounded person.


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